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The Preacher is behind Holly Holm

Two sides of Holly Holm’s nature were on display in a Houston cage on July 19, 2013.

First, the Albuquerque MMA fighter felled Allanna Jones with a vicious kick to the head. Holm dropped to finish her opponent on the ground, but it wasn’t necessary; Jones was out cold.

Then, instead of celebrating the spectacular victory, a somber Holm knelt on the canvas – waiting for a sign that Jones was going to be OK. Only after Jones stirred did “The Preacher’s Daughter” get to her feet and acknowledge the crowd.

Roger Holm’s nickname is not “The Fighter’s Father,” though that’s what he is. And it seems that, in terms of toughness and tenderness, the competitive acorn did not fall far from the nurturing tree.

Holm is, in fact, a preacher. He officiates each Sunday at Edgewood Church of Christ in the East Mountains, where he lives. For years earlier, he was the pastor at Bosque Farms Church of Christ.

He and his former wife, Tammy Bredy, have three children: daughter Holly and sons Brian and Weston. Brian is the oldest, Holly, 34, the youngest.

He brought up all three, Roger Holm said in a recent interview, the same way.

“I taught my kids hope,” he said. “Always make sure you’ve got time for somebody’s heart.

“That’s the key to life.”

And yet, the fighter’s father exudes a certain toughness – still, at 63, not far removed from the southeastern Colorado farm boy and high school football player he was in his youth.

“Growing up, he was very sweet and very loving,” Holly Holm said by phone from Melbourne, Australia, where on Sunday (Saturday Albuquerque time) she’ll challenge Ronda Rousey for the UFC women’s bantamweight title. “He’s very real about life, (but) he’s very competitive still.

“My dad really puts himself out there. … I feel he gets more out of life by doing that. He has a very intense kind of passion about life. I’ve been very fortunate to have had that example.”

Roger Holm has been asked many times, he said, how as a minister he could allow or approve of his daughter’s career in combat sports. Holly first competed as a kickboxer, then as a world champion boxer, now as an unbeaten (9-0) MMA fighter.

None of his kids, he noted, ever shied away from physical contact. Brian rode saddle broncs; Weston wrestled and played football at Manzano. Holly played soccer.

And, simply put, he supports his daughter.

“I’ve always told Holly two things,” he said. “I said, No. 1, I’m behind you if you want to quit tomorrow. But if she wants to keep fighting, that’s fine. It’s living.”

As for the Rousey fight, in which his daughter is a prohibitive underdog, “I feel pretty confident Holly can beat her. Ronda doesn’t know the strength and agilities that Holly has.”

Roger Holm grew up on a farm near Rocky Ford, Colo. He studied animal science and agricultural business and got a degree in the latter discipline from Colorado State.

“Then I went back to the farm with my dad,” he said, “and that’s when I started searching.”

Embracing Christianity, Holm studied at the Bible Institute of Denver. There, he met and married Tammy.

The couple then moved to Iowa, where Brian and Weston were born. Holly was born soon after the family came to Bosque Farms in 1981.

Being a preacher’s kid, he said, expected to behave a certain way pretty much all the time, wasn’t always easy for his daughter. But there were advantages, too.

“Holly knows what it’s like to be in the limelight,” Roger said. “I guess that’s why she can handle it a little better than some.”

The Holms divorced when Holly was a senior in high school. But both parents, she said, remained constants in her life and her career.

Despite some early reservations about her fighting career, Holly said, it was her mother who most strongly encouraged her to continue fighting after a loss by devastating knockout to French boxer Anne Sophie Mathis in December 2011. For the Holm family, it was an echo of a knockout loss Holly had suffered early in her kickboxing career.

“My mom was the first one who said, ‘Well, yeah. You’ve been there before; you’ve come back before.’ ”

Of her brothers, Holly said: “They’re my biggest fans. … They’re just as loyal as can be. I’m so blessed to have them.”

In 2012, Holly married Albuquerquean Jeff Kirkpatrick. Her parents, her brothers, her husband and a circle of close friends, she said, give her all the support she could want. Many of them, including her father, will be at Etihad Stadium for the Rousey fight.

“It’s great to have a little bit of home here with me,” she said.

Tammy, having witnessed that kickboxing knockout loss, generally prefers not to attend the fights. “But she’s always with me,” Holly said.

Roger has never missed one, and regularly worked the corner during her boxing matches.

The father’s duties, said Mike Winkeljohn, Holly’s primary coach throughout her career, consisted mostly of getting the stool into the corner between rounds. He always left the talking to the trainer.

“He’s very, very easygoing,” Winkeljohn said. “You could tell he was always nervous for his daughter on the inside, but he tried not to show it and show confidence. He cares.”

Holly Holm is grateful her father never became the stereotypical Little League parent and tried to interfere in any way with Winkeljohn or Lenny Fresquez, her longtime Albuquerque promoter.

“I’m so glad he wasn’t one of those parents that wanted to manage me or promote me or anything like that,” she said. “… I never wanted that. I never wanted to feel tension in that way. I like my dad to be my dad, and I like my mom to be my mom.”

In his role as dad, traditionally, during Holly’s boxing career, Roger would take his daughter to lunch the day of the fight. The conversation, she said, rarely was about fighting.

“Whatever way the conversation was going, we just went with it. He’s pretty good at being relaxed in that situation without really causing too much stress or drama on me, and I’m thankful for that.”

Roger Holm saw Holly’s transition from boxing into MMA as a natural progression, since she had trained at Jackson-Wink MMA for years. But, as a result, a few things have changed.

Their lunch on the day of the fight rarely happens, now that Holly’s fights no longer take place in the Albuquerque area. Roger no longer works the corner. He’s no longer a presence in his daughter’s dressing room before a fight.

“After she got married I kind of let Jeff, her husband, go in the back,” he said. “I just got out of the picture, and I thought that was good. And the UFC, they don’t even let Jeff in the back.”

Yet, the father-daughter bond is as close as ever. The two talk frequently and are partners in a real estate company.

Roger recalled a conversation he’d had with his daughter over lunch some 15 years ago. He was recently divorced and had left his position at the Bosque Farms church, having decided he needed a break from preaching.

“Holly and I met at a little restaurant,” he said. “… We got to talking, and I said, ‘You know, things haven’t really turned out that good for me, Holly, but I have a feeling you’re gonna be pretty well known someday.’

“She looked across the table at me and she said, ‘Dad, I feel the same way.’ ”

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